Improving 1% Every Time You Play

Photo by moodboard/moodboard / Getty Images

Photo by moodboard/moodboard / Getty Images

The idea of improving 1% every time you play is not something I came up with.  I’ve seen it talked about here and there by efficiency experts like Tim Ferriss and other entrepreneurs.  In short, by improving 1% everyday, you will see exponential gains over a period of months and years.

To apply this concept to fighting games is relatively easy when you are first starting out.  Your major noticeable gains are going to be in your execution, combos, and punishes.  You start out by not being able to anti-air a jump-in or perform a basic combo when you block a risky reversal.  Then over time, you’re able to anti-air with a normal or hit your combo less than half the time.

Slowly, you’re anti-airing with the max damage move your character has and you hit the proper punish every time.  These are slow changes because your brain needs time to adapt and it takes time to put yourself into enough situations where your brain knows which moves to perform and then can execute them effortlessly.  

However, once you get to that point with your character, where do you go next?

There are only so many combos that each character has and lots of times the things you can really improve upon are going to be fancy combos which may not always be practical or footsies experience which is hard to practice by yourself. 

Once you have reached a level of competency with your first main character, the next areas to improve upon are other characters.  This is because you will make the largest gains by learning new characters and their attacks/options; this is the low-hanging fruit so to speak.

You won’t be learning these characters because you want to play them in tournament or master them for yourself (although you can if you choose, but that’s not the point of this concept).  You’ll be learning these characters because they will help you learn about the way they move and attack, as well as what their “character goals” are.  

This will help you immensely when fighting these characters in matches because when it comes to matchups, a little firsthand character experience can go a long way.  

Imagine that you learned Ryu first when picking up Street Fighter.  You’ve learned his normals, his special attacks, his anti-airs, and finally his basic combos.  You’ve played a bit online, have a decent ranking online, play regularly with a group of players near your skill level, and generally feel you have a strong handle on what Ryu has to offer.

Now imagine that you fight another Ryu player that is slightly beneath your skill level.  He may know most of what you know about Ryu and his execution may be almost as strong.  Maybe his Ryu is about 80% of your Ryu.

When you go up against an opponent like this, you won’t feel very much intimidation, if any at all.  This is because since you are competent with the character your opponent is using, there will be very few, if any, surprises in the match.  Sure you might get hit by an unexpected Reversal or some sort of weird cross-up gimmick, but generally there will be nothing that he throws at you that you haven’t either seen or done yourself.

Now imagine that you are fighting a player that is slightly beneath your skill level, but using a character that is uncommon and that you are unfamiliar with such as Hakan.  You might think that Hakan is considered a low-tier character, therefore you have nothing to worry about.  However, a player that is near your skill level will know about as much as you do about Hakan as you do about Ryu.  

When you combine that with the fact that you likely know little to nothing about Hakan’s moveset, character goals, nuances, and gimmicks and this is quickly shaping up to be a tough match.  

Despite the fact that your opponent’s overall skill level is not as strong as yours, you will still struggle because of your lack of experience and character knowledge.  Maybe you’ll win, maybe you’ll lose, but it likely won’t be pretty and can get frustrating quickly.

This is an area that you can quickly become stronger in by focusing on improving 1% in your Hakan knowledge.  This means going into Training Mode to explore his normals, specials, combos, setups, and other nuances.

In fact, usually as little as 15-20 minutes of Training Mode exploration with a new character can yield far more than 1% character knowledge, making this method quite effective for improving when you’re just starting out in fighting games.  

It’s easy to make big leaps when you don’t know that much in the first place, right? ;)

Of course, over time as you learn more characters and more about the game, it will become harder and harder to improve 1% each time, however, we can worry about that later as we become more experienced.

For now, focus on picking the low hanging fruit of learning more about characters you struggle with and you’ll find that the subsequent matchups you fight against those characters become immensely easier.